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Sunday, 8 November 2009





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Giant ‘Sea Monster’ found on Jurassic Coast

How the pliosaur compares Pic: Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway

 Pliosaurs had powerful jaws

Acolossal fossilised skull of a ‘sea monster’, possibly the biggest of its kind ever found, has been discovered along Britain’s Jurassic Coast. The giant predator, called a pliosaur, dominated the seas at the same time as dinosaurs roamed the land, around 150 million years ago.

The beast’s skull is 2.4 metres long, and in total it could have measured 16 metres and weighed in at a staggering 12 tons. It was discovered by fossil hunter Kevin Sheehan, who recovered the heavy fragments over a number of years from Weymouth Bay, Dorset.

Dr David Martill, a palaeontologist from the University of Portsmouth, said: “This is one of the largest, if not the largest, pliosaur skull found anywhere in the world and contains features that have not been seen before. “It could be a species new to science.”

The fossil, which is 90% complete, shows a predator with a huge powerful jaw lined with razor-sharp teeth, similar to a crocodile’s. Using four paddle-like limbs to glide through the water, pliosaurs would have dined on ichthyosaurs - giant reptiles which resembled modern-day dolphins. Dr Martill said: “These creatures were monsters.

Skull fossil discovered in Dorset

“They had massive big muscles on their necks, and you would have imagined that they would bite into the animal and get a good grip, and then with these massive neck muscles they probably would have thrashed the animals around and torn chunks off.

“It would have been a bit of a blood bath.” The pliosaur skull is the latest fossil to be discovered on the Jurassic Coast, Britain’s only natural World Heritage Site, which runs along 95 miles of the Devon and Dorset coastline. Mr Sheehan said: “In 40 years of collecting, I have often been green with envy at some of the finds other people have made.

“But now when someone shows me a find, I can say ‘That’s not a fossil, this pliosaur, that’s a fossil’.” Dorset County Council has bought the remains and will eventually display them in the county museum.

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